Contacting the Inland Revenue

Published on 14 September 2004

This article has now been updated - you can find our latest comments in our article entitled "Praise to the Revenue for listening". One of the great difficulties for many people dealing with the Inland Revenue is to find the right person who will solve their problem. The Inland Revenue have just revamped their Contact Us section on their website and we decided to see how easy it would be for the low income customer to find who they should contact with their question.

You can reach the Contact Us section of the Revenue website from their home page atwww.hmrc.gov.uk or you can click the link below.

Our update to this article has been published here, entitled "Praise to the Revenue for listening".

Frankly the experience was a great disappointment. We could write several pages about the inadequacies of trying to find what you want. But here are a few of the problems:

  • You are invited to contact the Revenue by e-mail but are then confronted with the disclaimer that they ‘cannot offer an e-mail service to all of its customers’. This would be better described as ‘hardly any of our customers’. For those parts where a service is offered you have to guess what help might be available behind the various Departmental labels.
  • If you want to contact the Revenue by phone you are given three options, General Enquiries, Specific Enquiries and Forms and Stationery:
    • For General Enquiries you are given a list of Helplines. The first one is called 10% TELLSA and is supposed to help the low paid. The fact that this jargon is only known to a few in the Revenue (and represents an initiative long abandoned) and in fact delivers you to another Helpline anyway, illustrates the level of customer thought given. The list carries on in this vein and the descriptions of help offered are inadequate. Some Helplines are not mentioned at all.
    • For Specific Enquiries you are immediately shunted off to an A-Z listing of tax offices where you have to guess where a tax office might be located near you. If the place you live, never had a tax office in the first place it becomes a lottery for you to find what you want. Should you find one it could well direct you to telephone numbers for the employee or the self-employed. No help if you are pensioner or a student.
    • If you want to order forms or stationery then you are taken to a very confusing list of Orderlines. There is no reference to common topics such as income tax or tax credit forms for individuals. It is also surprising that the list of telephone numbers given differs from the Orderline listing under the e-mail section referred to earlier. There is no reference to other parts of the Revenue website where you can order forms etc. online.
  • If you want to contact the Revenue by post you have to go through the A-Z lottery referred to under contacting General Enquiries by phone.
  • Finally you are advised to contact the Revenue ‘by face to face’, which translates as being ‘if you want to visit us’. In this case you are taken to a useful facility where you can put in your postcode and find an enquiry centre near you. That does of course presuppose that you live within a sensible journey of the diminishing number of Revenue offices that exist. Be warned, do not set off on your journey without telephoning first as we found an office listed which no longer exists and a number of offices where the telephone numbers listed are different to the ones given in the earlier A-Z. The Revenue say that different offices have different opening times, around a core time, might it not be helpful in the office listing to have those times set out?

Nowhere does it say what you will need to have to hand if you do contact them, for example, your reference number or National Insurance Number.

The services that the Revenue offers for those with disabilities such as, large print, Braille, telephone loops, Typetalk, minicoms, home visits for those that cannot get to enquiry centres, are totally ignored.

The Revenue do not want people to contact them, as it is expensive for them to answer enquiries. So is this part of the master plan coupled with long waits for Helplines? For an organisation that prides itself on its service to its customers and the value of its online services, the information about how to contact the right person needs substantial improvement.

Oh, and by the way, if you thought you’d print off a page of customer help and refer to it later, make sure the bits on the right-hand side of the page are not interesting, as the Revenue website does not have a Print Page facility, so they will not get printed.

(14-09-2004)

Contact Name: John Andrews (Tel: 0844 579 6700, Fax: 0844 579 6701)

Relevant Link: Inland Revenue website